Sunday, April 29, 2007

Science Sunday: Wrap-up of recent advancements in science from EurekAlert!

Device uses solar energy to convert carbon dioxide into fuel:
Chemists at the University of California, San Diego have demonstrated the feasibility of exploiting sunlight to transform a greenhouse gas into a useful product.

Plastic solar cell efficiency breaks record at Wake Forest Nanotechnology Center:
Researchers at Wake Forest University's Center for Nanotechnology and Molecular Materials have doubled the efficiency of organic or flexible, plastic solar cells in just two years. The new record set at Wake Forest is more than 6 percent efficiency.

Ethanol vehicles pose a significant risk to human health, study finds:
Ethanol is widely touted as an eco-friendly, clean-burning fuel. But if every vehicle in the United States ran on fuel made primarily from ethanol instead of pure gasoline, the number of respiratory-related deaths and hospitalizations would likely increase, according to a new study by Stanford University atmospheric scientist Mark Z. Jacobson. His findings are published in the April 18 online edition of the journal Environmental Science & Technology.

Carnegie Mellon University scientists identify genes activated during learning and memory:
Researchers have long recognized that for learning and memory to take place, certain genes must be activated to alter neuron activity inside the brain. But identifying and cataloging all the genes involved in learning is a daunting task. In the March 13 issue of BMC Neuroscience, Carnegie Mellon University scientists show how an innovative computational approach can provide a rapid way to identify the likely members of this long sought-after set of genes.

How the brain copes with shifty eyeballs:
Neurobiologists have pinpointed brain regions critical to one of the brain's more remarkable feats -- piecing together a continuous view of the world by integrating snippets of visual input from constantly moving eyes. Since the eyeball has only a narrow field of clear view, it must continually make tiny shifts to sample the visual world. And during these shifts, which last thousandths of a second, people are essentially blind.

Caterpillar robot to mend broken hearts:
Robot caterpillars, 20-milimeters long could soon be let loose to crawl over the surface of a beating heart to deliver drugs or other treatments. The device, called HeartLander, can be inserted using minimally invasive keyhole surgery, and can attach onto the surface of the heart using suckers for feet. The team in the US have carried out tests on live pigs where HeartLander fitted pacemaker leads and injected dye into the heart.

New method to directly probe the quantum collisions of individual atoms:
A new method has been developed to directly and precisely measure a quantum property of individual atoms -- the phase shifts that result when they collide at ultracold temperatures -- in a way that is independent of the accuracy-limiting density of the atoms. These shifts, which had been impossible to measure with high precision, are important for atomic clocks and other areas of contemporary atomic physics, including research on super-sensitive atom lasers high-temperature superconductivity.

Electronic displays that fit on clothing could power revolution in lighting:
A thin film of plastic which conducts electricity and produces solar power could be the basis for a revolution in the way we light our homes and design clothes.

Researchers develop technique for bacteria crowd control:
A surprising technique to concentrate, manipulate and separate a wide class of swimming bacteria has been identified through a collaboration between researchers at Argonne National Laboratory, Illinois Institute of technology, University of Arizona at Tucson and Cambridge University, UK. This device could have enormous applications in biotechnology and biomedical engineering including use in miniaturized medical diagnostic kits and bioanalysis.

Twin studies reveal genetic components leading to cardiac and kidney disease:
Daniel O'Connor, M.D., Professor of Medicine and Pharmacology at the University of California, San Diego, School of Medicine has studied about 265 twin pairs over the past few years, which has led him to some surprising discoveries.

New research shows that flu is a trigger of heart attacks:
Doctors need to take concerted action to ensure that people who are at risk of heart disease receive the influenza vaccine every autumn, according to the authors of a new report published in the European Heart Journal. Their research shows that influenza epidemics are associated with a rise in deaths from heart disease and that flu can actually trigger the heart attacks that result in death.

Was Einstein right? Scientists provide first public peek at Gravity Probe B results:
At the American Physical Society meeting in Jacksonville, Fla., Professor Francis Everitt, a Stanford University physicist and principal investigator of the Gravity Probe B Relativity Mission, a collaboration of Stanford, NASA and Lockheed Martin, provided the first public peek at data that will reveal whether Einstein's theory has been confirmed by the most sophisticated orbiting laboratory ever created.

Everything starts with recognition:
Scientists track at the atomic scale how individual molecules recognise each other.



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